Confinements of Perspective

By Hugo Emmerzael

© Studio SLON / Kislota

Russian director Alexander Gorchilin captures the aimlessness and alienation of Russian youth, but offers a too limited perspective to lead the way himself.

At its best, ACID (KISLOTA, Russian Republic) captures what it is like to be a young man in Russia right now. It conveys the thrilling randomness of the protagonists’ lives: aimless twenty-somethings Sasha and Pete, riling against themselves, their families and society at large. Disappointingly, debut director Alexander Gorchilin fails to include the other perspectives required to contextualise the inner turmoil of these emotional young men.

He does lovingly portray Sasha (Filipp Avdeev), an aspiring musician plagued by adolescent anxieties regarding his body and sexuality. He draws inspiration from his best friend Pete (Pyotr Skvortsov), a more outgoing party animal who is always looking for ways to make life more interesting. Their intoxicated adventures through the Moscow nightlife are spiked by psychedelic drugs. ACID fittingly integrates the lucid and kaleidoscopic qualities of this substance in lavish party scenes. The sounds and visuals distort, reverberate and echo from trip to trip.

Suddenly, Sasha and Pete become aware of the faults in their own lives when their best friend Ivan (Pyotr Skvortsov) commits suicide during an acid trip gone bad. However, the way they subsequently fail to process their feelings of guilt and sorrow is illustrative for the millennial generation they grow up with. Instead of expressing them, they choose to obscure their emotions in a haze of drugs, parties and sexual encounters. In these moments of hedonistic escapism, Gorchilin most noticeably showcases his directorial skills with intense sound design, infectious music and sensual cinematography.

It is the outside world Sasha and Pete try to escape from that Gorchilin is unable to portray in an effective manner. A lot of the plot of ACID has to do with the family quarrels of Sasha and Pete. These are simplistic at best, and problematic at worst. The boys are allowed a deep interiority, while their mothers, girlfriends and lovers are confined to the role of one-dimensional nags. Authoritative institutions like the state and church are depicted with a similar bluntness.

This is a shame, because Gorchilin touches upon poignant issues and themes that should be universal. ACID tries to depict the sensation of a generation overwhelmed by contrasts, possibilities and expectations. This resonates especially in Russia, where this generation of millennials is the first to be born in the post-Soviet capitalist era. By commenting on the effects of this complex societal shift from the confinements of his own perspective, Gorchilin misses the opportunity to make more profound observations on behalf of his misunderstood generation.